Young People & Religion

24 May 2011 — Leave a comment

Last week I went to the Young People & Religion conference at Kings College London. It was an opportunity for researchers to share some of their initial findings from their work under the Religion and Society Research Programme.

The Religion and Society Research Programme is a collaborative venture between the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)… The Programme started in January 2007 and finishes December 2012. It has funded 75 original projects [click here to see the full list] across the arts, humanities and social sciences in three phases, with Phase 2 focused on Youth and Religion.

It was a very interesting day with quite a diverse range of topics that were being researched. However all of it was in relation to young people and their attitude towards faith. The presentations were under various headings:

Religion and growing up in Britain 1

  • Mathew Guest and Sonya Sharma (Durham University) – Religion and University Students
  • Betsy Olson and Giselle Vincett (Edinburgh University) – Spirituality and Social Deprivation

Young Religious Identities

  • Jasjit Singh (Leeds University) – The Transmission of Sikhism to the Next Generation
  • Bereket Loul (Leeds Metropolitan University) – Young Asylum Seekers’ Religious Identities

Religion and growing up in Britain 2

  • Sarah-Jane Page (Durham) – Young Religious People and Sexuality
  • Nicola Madge (Brunel) – Young People’s Perspectives on Religion

Christian youth now and then

  • Naomi Stanton (Open University) – From Sunday Schools to Youth Work
  • Peter Hopkins (Newcastle University) – Young Christian Volunteers in Latin America: What difference does the experience make?

If I’m totally honest, I was a little dissapointed with some of the presentations. Each was different and explored their topic in a variety of ways, but with only 15 minutes each I felt we didn’t really get to grips with the content of the data being presented and therefore it was difficult for the audience to try and relate it to practice. Personally, I would have liked some kind of overview in advance so I could better understand the aim of the research instead of going in cold.

Having said that, there were some really interesting things that stood out. For example, the research among university students threw up some questions about how students describe their faith affiliation. For example 52% of those researched said they were Christian, but only 40% of those Christians said they were religious. The researchers also found that the term ‘Evangelical’ was disliked by a large percentage of Christian students even though it accuratey described their position on faith. It seemed to me that among those surveyed, there was a general lack of understanding about religious terms – or a dislike of being labelled. This avoidance of labels appeared in other aspects of the day too, especially the Young People’s Perspectives on Religion session.

Another interesting session was Jas Singh talking about young Sikhs search for authenticity in their faith and in their religious leaders. This also resonated with some of the specifically Christian research too and was a theme drawn out from the panel at the end of the day.

Most of the notes from the day, and hopefully further information on the research will be available on the Religion and Society website soon. So if you don’t already subscribe, make sure you check it out as collectively this research is the most ever done on young people and faith and should help inform our practice for the future.

On a similar note, if you get the chance why not attend the Youth & Policy ‘Young People and Faith: implications for youth working‘ Conference in Leeds on 27-28th June. Although I’m speaking, don’t let it put you off! There’s some great people giving input and a good mix of practitioners and academics.

Jon

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I am a qualified youth worker, writer and consultant based in Littlehampton, UK. I've worked in the voluntary youth sector for over 12 years, am married to Kirsty and we have two daughters named Hope and Eloise. Check out 'Journeying Together: Growing Youth Work and Youth Workers in Local Communities' and read my opening chapter.

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